cover image Digby O’Day in the Fast Lane

Digby O’Day in the Fast Lane

Shirley Hughes, illus. by Clara Vulliamy. Candlewick, $12.99 (128p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7369-7

Hughes’s collaboration with her illustrator daughter, first in a three-book series, tells of a rivalry between amiable Digby O’Day (he’s a dog) and his fashionable neighbor Lou Ella (she’s a human). Lou Ella lives a life of flash (“Lou Ella bought a new car every year, always a very expensive one”), and she expects to win the great auto race from Didsworth to Dodsworth. Digby and his loyal companion Percy (also a dog) are rewarded when an unassuming family they’ve befriended tells them about a secret shortcut. The book’s small trim size and ample illustrations slot it neatly between picture and chapter book. Vulliamy’s (Martha Bunny Loves School) vignettes adorn every page, and extra features, like a Q&A with Digby and a page from his photo album, abound. Hughes (Hero on a Bicycle) works hard to show that civility and gentle humor trump unbecoming displays of glitz, while developing the car-based race theme, which draws momentum from accidents (including a literal cliff-hanger), last-minute repairs, and suspense over who will reach the finish line first. Ages 5–8. (Aug.)